The Third Leader: A royal lineage of conspiracy theories

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The Independent Online

The royal death was almost certainly an accident. There is not much evidence of foul play. But the public is not appeased, and scents a cover-up. Someone – surely – was murdered.

Sounds familiar? No, for once we are not talking about the Princess of Wales. We are talking about the Pharoah of Egypt, Tutankhamun – that other fascinating royal personage cut off in the prime of life.

The Princess of Wales has two children to put forward the admittedly vain demand that she should be allowed to rest in peace. Poor Tut, who died rather earlier, has no one. Carted around and hacked up ever since his tomb was discovered in 1922, he has been dismembered several times over. At one stage, they even lost his penis.

Such is the strange fate of royalty, to be both deified and manhandled, and this generations after the French revolution exploded the cult of kings. Well, only up to a point. The crowds certain to attend Tutankhamun's return to London in November suggest that in certain respects we haven't moved on much since the Stuart era, when the public crowded around the monarch, hoping to be "touched for the King's Evil".

The curious and illogical fascination with royals blends seamlessly with our love of conspiracies. But it's a frightening thought that the public obsession with Diana may last as long as the cult of Tutankhamun, given that he lived more than 3,000 years ago. If the memorabilia industry clanks along for anything like as long, they will be arguing about the death of the Princess of Wales in the year AD 5,000. That's a lot of time for more books and whodunit theories.